This Hard-Hit State's COVID Progress May Be Inaccurate, Officials Say

This state is seriously underreporting its daily new cases, local health officials admit.

In late July, California surged ahead of New York, the state that had previously counted the most coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. Per data collected by The New York Times, California's number of total reported COVID cases has now topped 527,000. But with Gov. Gavin Newsom rolling back reopening and issuing a statewide mask mandate, it's seemed like California has been trending in the right direction. The Times reports that the daily new case average has dropped 18 percent in the last two weeks. But unfortunately, state health officials have recently acknowledged that this progress may not be as significant in reality as it looks on paper. Due to technical problems, California is likely underreporting its COVID cases.

As reported by The Sacramento Bee, California's Department of Public Health has put a disclaimer on its live updated COVID data dashboard that reads, "Due to issues with the state's electronic laboratory reporting system, these data represent an underreporting of actual positive cases in one single-day." The publication notes that it's not clear how many single-day totals are affected or how far off the system's counts may be.

California beach social distancing sign

During a virtual COVID update on August 4, California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, MD, acknowledged "some discrepancies" within the system, which is called CalREDIE, and said that those reporting issues were in the process of being addressed. However, per ABC 7, he also cautioned, "We're not sure when we will have a definitive fix to the problem."

Ghaly blamed the tech lag time on the sheer amount of data—in California tests and positive cases—that CalREDIE is processing every day. Health officials from some counties in the state have claimed that the numbers in their areas are being underreported by the hundreds due to this glitch. Riverside County epidemiologist Wendy Hetherington, MPH, told ABC 7, "We can't tell how well we're doing until this issue is resolved." The same county's Public Health Director, Kim Saruwatari, MPH, told The Sacramento Bee that she expects to see much higher daily case totals in the near future as the system catches up to itself.

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Inaccurate numbers not only give an unclear picture of California's progress, they also severely limit the ability of the state's pandemic response team to trace positive cases and limit the continued spread.

However, there is more concrete evidence that California is making some gains against the coronavirus. In the virtual update, Ghaly reported that hospitalizations decreased by 11 percent over the past two weeks and that ICU admittance has fallen as well.

And to see which parts of the country are experiencing dangerous surges right now, These Two States Are Becoming the Worst COVID Hotspots in the U.S.

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Sage Young
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